Delay in diagnosis of bone cancers can lead to worse outcomes for the patient and even death. What more can be done to ensure more prompt diagnosis?
By Ben Lees
The Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT) holds its annual conference for supporters and clinicians in the field in Leeds on Saturday 22 to Sunday 23 June 2013. Clinical presentations are delivered and the latest research explained. Every year individuals also tell their stories and in many cases we hear that they have been to a doctor for advice about symptoms and been turned away or told their symptoms relate to another condition leading to a delay before their cancer is diagnosed.
As medical negligence solicitors, a frequent example we hear from our clients is when they attend their GP with complaint of leg pain, and they are diagnosed with a simple musculoskeletal strain or injury even though they may be a young patient and have not suffered any impact or undertaken any sport recently to account for their developing pain.
In one particular case investigated by the Clinical Negligence Team, after several trips to GPs who would not deviate from a diagnosis of musculoskeletal trauma, a young woman was advised by a physiotherapist specialising in sports injuries that he was concerned about the lump in her knee and her pain. He wrote a detailed letter of referral for the family to produce to an orthopaedic surgeon. They duly went to A&E where a surgeon was called. Unfortunately he did not pay much attention to the letter from the physiotherapist and advised the patient to return to her GP. Our client persevered and several weeks later was able to obtain a second opinion from another orthopaedic surgeon in a specialist knee clinic who ordered an MRI scan and then correctly identified a 12cm tumour. He referred her back to a specialist NHS unit, where she then began urgent treatment in the form of chemotherapy and surgery. Our client was fortunate to retain her leg despite the delay, but she did need to have a knee replacement because of the increase in size of the tumour during the negligent cumulative periods of delay by her general practitioners and the first orthopaedic surgeon.
If there is a delay in diagnosis of bone cancer then it can sometimes be that case that, by the time the condition is recognised, an amputation of a limb is inevitable and/or the tumour may have metastasised. In some cases the condition is too advanced and the patient sadly dies.
The theme of this years conference is “No Limb-its” – there is no limit to what can be achieved. Every year the specialist clinicians who are members of the BCRT devise new and better treatments for their patients, which mean that many more patients with bone cancer are achieving much better outcomes than they would have done previously. In addition to this work it is vital that medical practitioners are better advised and more aware of the possibility of a diagnosis of bone cancer when faced with a patient with relevant symptoms to ensure the correct investigations are undertaken and a diagnosis is reached as early as possible.
If you have been diagnosed with bone cancer and you believe that there has been a delay in the diagnosis being made, it is important to see the advice of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor who can fully investigate how the delay may have affected your outcome and ensure you receive compensation to enable you to seek the best treatment available.